You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.
We're leaving our devoted automobile, Dieter, alongside the road up to the Col du Marchairuz, just below the col, 9 February 2013.
It's a cold day by our standards, -7°C (19°F), and Canadians are not invited to make sarcastic comments. We're starting off towards the farm of the Pré d'Aubonne.
It's the kind of cold day that makes Kristin, who's from northern Wisconsin, put on her earmuffs and make sarcastic comments.
We're off to do some general exploring in the forest, and to check out the winter wildlife situation.
Very few wildlife tracks in the new snow, one rabbit so far, and one fox that seems to have wandered everywhere.
We're following Monsieur Le Renard, the fox, to his hideout under the dead tree, after which we will go on our own way and leave him to his frantic winter search for anything edible.
With the brilliant sun out, we're admiring the scenery and working on our tans at the same time.
And eating the snow.
Eating snow is something that many people, or some people, just have to do.
A metre of new snow on the hard old layers underneath
We were searching for holes and caves and got ourselves down into a cul-de-sac ravine, and now it's time to get back out of it.
I'm going up the side -- Kristin prefers to follow the instincts of Monsieur Le Renard and charge straight up the middle.
We'll meet up later.
Very beautiful in the sunlight
Taking stock of the situation
We're at the top of something and looking over the far side of it; now we'll start back and keep an eye out for the particular cave we were searching for.
Kristin retracing our track for a ways; there was no sign of the cave we recalled seeing round here somewhere.
And now onto the track of a previous group, leading us out to the road
Snow layers, in a generous snow year
The Service Forestière buildings at the roadside
Kristin at, or 2m above, the Marchairuz road
And rejoining Dieter before he gives us up for lost.
The next day -- more sunlight
Kristin is nursing her jetlag from Florida, but Dr Pirri has consented to keep us company on another sun-bathed expedition, this time at -8°C (i.e., 17°F, which doesn't sound half as bad as -8). We're leaving Dieter at the grand virage on the Vallée du Joux road on the French-facing side of the Col du Marchairuz.
Impatient Professor Pirri
Today we're following a well-trod track from an apparently huge group that left much earlier today than we are.
We're marching southwest towards Mont Tendre (and towards the sun).
A Coolpix zoom down at the farm of Pré de Denens on the main cross-country ski route to the Col du Mollendruz 18km to the northeast
A long upwards meadow below the Grand Cunay
It seems to go on forever.
In fact, it is going on forever.
A glance back to the southwest
Dr Pirri brings us up short for a discussion.
Two touring skiers pass with a greeting
From here, they'll get a few dynamite powder downhills and then shuffle out four kilometres with their skins on. Have fun!
Virgin snow upwards towards the top of the higher of the Grand Cunays
Don't say "virgin snow" -- now we can't do otherwise than leap compulsively down into this untracked whiteness.
There isn't anything better. All residual long-time knee pain is forgotten.
The view over France, in a crisp wind
We're wasting our quality time by arguing over who's going to be forced to put on gloves and a hat first.
An expanse of whiteness awaits us -- the cross-country ski carpark is in the distance right of centre -- as Dr Pirri also awaits us, in his hat and fashion-catwalk fancy ski gloves.
It's good of Dr Pirri to take the lead, but we had to remonstrate with him about kicking the snow up into the wind right in our face.
We're slightly grateful for this previous track at the top of the combe.
He's always in such a rush.
We're not catching up; that's the zoom lens on.
Now we're sneaking up on the farm of Mont de Bière Derrière, which squats on the Chemin des Crêtes hiking path between the Col du Marchairuz and Mont Tendre.
Mont de Bière Derrière in winter
That's our ski-touring pair from a while ago who've fetched up here, with some boot walkers out from the hotel at Marchairuz (to which they will return for their fondue).
At the mere sight of such a huge crowd, Dr Pirri dives back down into the forest.
Just checking for avalanche risks (none)
And we're soon back to reassure Dieter that all's well and go home.